You're happily married, so why did you have a sexually charged dream last night about…the copy guy at work (who, um, has a mullet!)? Could it mean that you're unhappy in your marriage? Secretly crushing on a man that's not the least bit your type? Have some kind of embarrassing sexual secret or problem? According to Debby Herbenick, PhD, author of Because It Feels Good: A Woman's Guide to Sexual Pleasure and Satisfaction, the answer is none of the above. Sex dreams are normal, she says (not to mention out of our control), and women shouldn't be embarrassed about them. Here, she and other experts decode the most common sex dreams.
1. The Same-Sex Dream
As shocking as it may sound to some, this dream is pretty common, says Dr. Herbenick. "Many women dream about having sex with another woman at some point in their lives, even if, in waking life, they're excited only by men," she says. So why does it happen? "Well, for one, American culture has been a bit obsessed with the idea of two women making out for some years now," she says. (Think: Girls Gone Wild.) But when a heterosexual woman suddenly has a same-sex dream, it's most likely the slumbering mind's expression of a strong female friendship. "Same-sex sex dreams can also be sparked by the emotional closeness that many women have with their best friends," she adds. "In dreams, sometimes this closeness may take on a different level but it is unlikely to mean anything about your sexual orientation, unless you also—in waking life—find that you are interested in women."
2. The Dream About the Guy Who Got Away
You haven't thought about your college boyfriend for years, so why did you have a wild dream about him last night? Don't blush, says Dr. Herbenick. "It's not unusual for women to dream about past boyfriends from high school or college, even years after they are happily settled into a more grownup life with a family," she says. Does it mean somewhere, deep down, you're still in love with your ex? Probably not, she says. It's more likely to be your brain processing old memories. "Images of an ex are stored along with thousands of other memories in your brain," she explains. "Just as men often dream about their high school glory days of a making a winning pass or basketball shot, women may relive those early days of exploration, romance and excitement."
According to Tina B. Tessina, PhD (a.k.a. "Dr. Romance"), a Long Beach, California–based psychotherapist and author of It Ends with You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction, this dream could also be a red flag. "It may mean that a current experience has reminded you of the prior experience, or that you're trying to understand something from that old experience," she says, encouraging women to listen to what this dream may be trying to tell you. "Perhaps someone you know now, or just met, reminds you of him, or you're concerned about repeating an old mistake." There's nothing wrong with a little nostalgia or a trip down memory lane, adds Dr. Herbenick. Just don't take your dream as a sign that you need to look up Mr. College Boyfriend on Facebook.
3. The Dream About Someone You're Not Attracted to in Real Life
"Occasionally, women may dream about someone they can't stand and are definitely not attracted to in real life," says Dr. Herbenick. "Sexual feelings can be sparked by a range of emotions—including rage, which is a type of passion." And a passionate dream could signal feelings of anger—in real life—toward the subject of your dream, adds Dr. Tessina. "It could mean you're angry at that person, and expressing your anger in your dream." But both say the bottom line is this: A dream is a dream. Don't get too hung up on it. "What's important is that women are able to separate their waking desires from their dreaming desires and know that their dreams don't have to dictate or suggest anything about their sex life," says Dr. Herbenick. "Shrug it off and move on."
4. The Inappropriate Dream (About Your Friend's Husband!)
You'd never have an affair, much less with your best friend's husband, so why in the world would you dream about it? The first explanation, says Dr. Tessina, is likely innocent curiosity. "You may be curious [on a subconscious level] about what it's like to be with him," she says. However, Dr. Herbenick offers another explanation. "It's taboo, it's exciting, it's totally inappropriate—but those feelings can make it all the more sexy," she says. "A small bit of research suggests that these extramarital dreams may be more likely to be experienced by those who are in a bit of a sex rut." Take this dream, she says, as a sign that you need to try to reintroduce the passion into your relationship. "Are there ways of kissing or being kissed that you'd like to reintroduce into your love life with your husband or partner? Might you sneak off to a hotel one weekend and leave the kids with your parents?"
5. The Dream About Your Husband, but with a Different Face/Voice/Body
Your husband is blond and thin, so why did he have the body of Arnold Schwarzenegger, dark hair and a French accent in your dream? Dr. Herbenick says that this dream could signal a need for more curiosity in a relationship. "Sometimes we get lazy or bored and we think we know everything there is to know about our partner," she says. "You know what he's going to say, what he's thinking, what he's going to eat for dinner or watch on television. But keep in mind that everyone, as predictable as they may seem, has an inner life of mystery and fascination, if only you allow yourself to be curious."
Her advice? Think back to your dating days. Remember when you started dating and you would ask each other questions about life, the past, family and jobs? "When did that stop?" she says. "When did you think there was nothing left to learn? Try to open yourself in a way that provokes good conversation. Ask about his day, his work, his dreams for his life or your family or an upcoming vacation. Ask questions in ways that you haven't before or haven't in a long time and share more of yourself, too. It may be that both of you are more interesting to each other than either of you has seen in a long time."
6. The Dream About the Mystery Man—the Perfect Knight-in-Shining-Armor
Have you ever woken up from such a perfect, romantic dream that you felt sad to face your reality in the morning? Getting swept off your feet by a mystery man in a dream could be a signal that something is missing in your real-life relationship. "Often we focus on the physical aspects of sex and how to make it better—how to find the G spot, sex positions for easier orgasm and so on," Dr. Herbenick says. "What we sometimes neglect, especially after we've been together for a long time, is the emotional side of sex. Dreaming about a mystery man who sweeps you off your feet can allow for a bit of emotional romance or some escapism, which there's nothing wrong with. If there are qualities in the mystery man that you enjoy, try to cultivate them in your own life."
Sarah Jio is the health and fitness blogger for Glamour.com. Visit her blog, Vitamin G.
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